Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Question 200: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which bail was granted in criminal cases in each of the past five years to date where the gardaí had objected to such bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28791/10]
Question 201: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications made for bail in each of the past three years to date in respect of offences committed while on bail; the number of cases granted or refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28792/10]
Question 202: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who obtained bail for a criminal offence committed while on bail in respect of a previous offence in each of the past five years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28793/10]
Question 203: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken or proposes to take to ensure that the bail law is not abused by criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28794/10]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 to 203, inclusive, together.
The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.
I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy in relation to crimes committed where the suspected offender was on bail.
The other statistics requested by the Deputy relate to applications for bail and the granting of bail by the courts. Under the Courts Service Act, 1998, the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which include the provision of information on the courts system to the public, including the provision of statistical and other related information.
The operation of the legislation relating to bail is kept under continuing review by my Department, and proposals for amendment of the legislation are brought forward when that is considered necessary. A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Towards the end of last year, I obtained Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill. The Bill will restate and consolidate bail law. In addition, a number of matters to improve the operation of the law are being examined, including where members of criminal gangs are involved. These include:
(a) providing that the courts must have regard to the nature and seriousness of any danger to any person or the public posed by the release of the accused person on bail;
(b) creating presumptions that bail should be refused for people charged with certain types of serious crime. In view of restrictions resulting from the European Convention on Human Rights, such presumptions would act as a form of guidance to the courts in identifying those who present unacceptable risks of committing serious offences if granted bail; and
(c) extending the powers of the courts to refuse bail where that is necessary to prevent the commission of further offences to include more minor offences which fall below the current level of seriousness required by the Bail Act 1997.
I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government later this year.